Guterres expresses support for Pakistan Election Commission

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United Nations : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday expressed support for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) amid allegations from two of the major parties that the polls were rigged.

In a carefully crafted statement, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: "The Secretary-General commends the Electoral Commission of Pakistan for the organisation of the elections, noting positive initiatives related to training and efforts to enhance the inclusion of women, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups, as well as first-time voters, in the electoral process. The United Nations is committed to continue to support the Electoral Commission."

Two major parties, Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and others have alleged that the that the elections were rigged by the military.

"By exercising their constitutional right to vote, the people of Pakistan have reaffirmed their commitment to a democratic Pakistan," Dujarric added.

The statement made no mention of Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which has won the most number of seats in the National Assembly, but is still short of a majority.

Khan is, however, expected to form the government with the support of independents and smaller parties.

"The Secretary General looks forward to the formation of the new government and wishes it success in providing the people of Pakistan a stable, democratic, and prosperous future," Dujarric said.

Although he had said on Thursday that a statement would be forthcoming, it was delayed by a day.

The UN took the unusual step of convening a special briefing for the spokesperson to make the statement.

Dujarric brushed off a journalist's question for the delay.

But earlier at his regular briefing on Friday, Dujarric said that a statement was in the pipeline and was traveling between several floors of the UN secretariat.

This was an indication that several officials were involved in drafting the statement possibly because of controversy in Pakistan over the conduct of the election.

A meeting of the leaders of PML-N and some other smaller parties on Friday said it was rejecting the results of the election.

A major Pakistani daily, the Dawn, said in an editorial, "The shocking mismanagement of the process of counting votes and announcing results at the polling station has made it necessary that the entire ECP senior leadership resign after the election formalities are completed and a high-level inquiry be conducted at the earliest."

The US government has not reacted publicly to the Pakistan elections as of Friday afternoon.

(Arul Louis can be reached at